I’m Sailing Away… Set an Open Course for Lake Michigan

There's nothing like a little Styx to get you in the mood for a sailing themed Actve in NWI article.

We have our first water dweller. Mike Jones has been sailing for many years and he loves to do what he does best right here in the region. Read all about how he is Active in NWI.

Written by Micheal Jones of Valparaiso, IN.

I love to be active in Northwest Indiana and I love to sail on Lake Michigan. One of the fantastic things about Northwest Indiana is the close proximity to Lake Michigan, our great unsalted inland sea. Sailing on Lake Michigan has been a passion for me ever since by wife introduced it to me just after we were first married almost 40 years ago. It started with a 22 foot boat that I purchased as a kit and my father-in-law helped me build. Since then I have had several different boats of varying sizes.

When the children were little, the boats had sold because we needed to buy a bigger house. The nice thing about sailing on the big lake is that the boats will take a crew of 5 to 12. This means that you don’t necessarily need to own one to sail, you just have to have a liking for the sport.

What I like to do is race. Racing takes the best you have to win. I have raced for almost all of those 40 years. Racing takes quite a bit of strength and balance. In addition, there is a lot to learn from the basics of sailing to the latest in high performance strategy. It is amazing how much the sport has changed over the years. When I did my first Chicago Mackinac race, we were racing on a 30 foot boat with Dacron sails and navigation was done with an RDF which was like racing and not knowing where you were. What we did was to log the distance and course sailed every hour and to plot it on a chart of the lake. This only worked so well. At one point in the race we were headed right for the south end of BeaverIsland, or about 30 miles off course. Now things have changed. Most boats have a GPS with a chart plotter. We always know exactly where you are and how long it will take to get to your destination.

The weather is always a challenge when sailing on Lake Michigan. When I first started sailing, we had no idea as to what the weather was going to do. On that first Mackinac race, the weather started to look bad on night. It seems like storms happen at night. I don’t know that to always to be true but it seems that way. What we did on that race was to take all the sails down and wait for the storm to pass. Two years ago we were off of Beaver Island then we saw the radar and know we were going to be hit well in advance of the storm. We were able to prepare for the storm. What we didn’t realize was the strength of the wind. We thought that we could withstand the wind to about 40 knots, without taking the main sail down, and when it got to that point we would take the Main Sail down. Well when the wind hit that point I said let’s take it down. Before we could do anything, the main sail trimmer lost hold of the main sheet, allowing the main sail to be pushed against the boats spreaders and tearing it in numerous points and destroying the sail. It wasn’t till after the race that it was announced the wind had reached 100 knots during the storm, one boat was capsized and numerous boats had considerable damage. We were lucky to have only lost a main sail.

As far as racing on Lake Michigan, there are a lot of big race you can choose, the Chicago to Mackinac Race, the Queens Cup which goes from Milwaukee to a port on the Michigan shore, the Tristate Race which goes from Chicago to St. Joseph, Michigan, and on to Michigan City, Indiana, or the National Offshore One Design Regatta in Chicago. These races are all great fun, but if you don’t want quite so fun there are several Yacht Cups on the south shore of Lake Michigan. Each of these clubs offer cub races which maybe 4 to 8 miles in distance and are planned to take about an hour. You can take your course of what you like. In addition you in the smaller races you can chose to race with a spinnaker of with just your jib and main, which is a lot easier to handle than a spinnaker.

One other thing that I like to do is build my crew. Normally, I have my two youngest sons sail with us. Both of which have become very good sailors. I have taken numerous people on board to sail with absolutely on sailing experience. Many of which that I took in over 30 years ago are still sailing, and have learned to love the sport.

If you want your story about being active in NWI, send it and a few photos to {laporte}share@laportecountylife.com{/laporte}{portage}share@portagelife.com{/portage}{valpo}share@valpolife.com{/valpo}{nwindiana}share@nwindianalife.com{/nwindiana}

Click here to read about Stacey Harris and how she is Active in NWI!